In the fleeting minutes before the inauguration of his successor, Donald Trump was able to enjoy the perquisites of the presidency for a last time — an escorted motorcade moving slowly through the streets of Palm Beach, Florida, as he waved from behind the windows of an armored vehicle to hundreds of supporters waving banners, cheering his name and some urging him to run again in 2024.
Trump was accompanied home by the now former first lady Melania Trump, a small number of still-loyal aides and a dozen members of the White House press corps, which he had collectively during his tenure derided as "fake news" and "enemies of the people."
The motorcade pulled through the gates of the Mar-a-Lago estate less than 30 minutes before Trump lost the powers of the presidency.
After leaving the White House for a final time, Trump arrived early Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the Marine One helicopter. He was greeted by the tune of "Hail to the Chief" played by a military band, a 21-gun salute and an invited crowd of about 200 people.
There, for just under 10 minutes, he addressed supporters — a more subdued, casual and condensed version of the stump speech from his frequent Make America Great Again rallies that he had hoped would win him reelection last year.
"I wish the new administration great luck and great success. I think they'll have great success," said Trump without referring to President Joe Biden by name.
Trump, who had been criticized for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, made a rare mention of the "incredible people and families who suffered so gravely" from COVID-19, referring to it as "the China virus."
The 45th U.S. president promised to "be back in some form" and then concluded his remarks by telling the cheering crowd, "have a good life. We will see you soon."
The Trumps then climbed the steps to Air Force One and turned around to wave several times, before departing for Florida.
Trump, as was the norm for four years, broke with tradition until the very end, not only avoiding Biden's inauguration but still refusing to utter the name of the Democratic Party nominee who was victorious in November's election.
At the moment Biden took the oath of office as new president just before noon at the heavily fortified U.S. Capitol building, Trump was 1,400 kilometers to the south, already inside his Mar-a-Lago mansion, a frequent warm weather retreat during his presidency.
Before he touched down in Florida, Air Force One did a low altitude flyover of the Florida coast to give the Trump family onboard an aerial view of Mar-a-Lago.
Trump's presidency ended in shambles. In its waning days, Trump was impeached a second time, the latter after the House of Representatives, including 10 Republicans, charged him with insurrection. Trump, even out of office, will face trial in the Senate soon.
In a January 6th speech on the Ellipse, with the White House in the background, he exhorted supporters at a Stop the Steal rally to march on the Capitol where lawmakers, led by Vice President Mike Pence, were counting the electoral votes to finalize Biden's victory.
The mayhem caused deaths, injuries and damage resulting in federal charges against more than 100 people — an event many Democrats and others have characterized as an attempted coup.
That event has weakened Trump's grip on the Republican party as many of its key politicians ask themselves whether the former president will help or hurt them in Congressional elections now less than two years away.
In a Gallup poll released this week, Trump departs with a 34% approval rating, the low point of a presidency that already had the weakest average favorability rating of any since the survey began in the 1940s.
Yet he remains popular among Republican voters, with an 82% approval rating. Despite condemnation from some of his party's lawmakers and even members of his Cabinet who resigned in protest over his post-election rhetoric, Trump is the current front-runner should he choose to run again for president in 2024.
Trump's business partners, from golf tournament partners to banks, are shunning him and he may struggle to remain a billionaire between now and the next presidential election. He has been silenced on social media and could face a slew of legal charges in New York and other states.
In his wake, he leaves behind a pandemic whose global spread he has blamed on China. The infectious disease has killed more than 400,000 people in the United States, far more than any other country has reported.
In the final year of his presidency, Trump himself was hospitalized after becoming infected by the coronavirus. Opinion polls indicate a majority of Americans believe his administration's response made the pandemic worse.
Trump's supporters point to positives achieved by the 45th president, including destruction of the Islamic State caliphate, normalization of the Middle East, criminal justice reform and speeding approval of generic drugs.